Not Financing Health and Aid for the Reconstruction of 'Hospitals' and 'Clinics'
In response to the destruction the regime has called for more than $US10.7 billion for reconstruction, of which $US42.52 million is for the reconstruction of the 110 hospitals and 288 rural health clinics destroyed or damaged. Burma, despite being a very poor country has an enormous amount of government provided hospitals and health clinics. In fact prior to the cyclone there were 839 hospitals, 1473 rural health clinics, 86 primary and secondary health centres, 348 maternal and child health centers, 14 traditional medicine hospitals and 237 traditional medicine clinics. This is quite remarkable, especially since the government spends considerably less than the other ASEAN governments on healthcare on a per capita basis. The regime in 2006 spent only nine cents per person, which compares with the government of Laos that managed to spend $US1.91. If expenditure on social security is not excluded then the Laos government would have spent around $US15, compared with Burma’s $US0.15.
ASEAN GOVERNMENT EXPENDITURE ON HEALTH
% Government Health Expenditure Financed by Aid
Government Expenditure without Aid/ Total Health Expenditure (%)
Per Capita Government Expenditure without Aid & Social Security Expenditure $US
In total the regime in 2006 spent only $US4.6 million dollars on healthcare, which means that if nothing was spent on administration, officialdom and all the revenue was distributed (an unlikely scenario) then each government hospital and clinic in the country received from the ‘government’ on average about $US1,500. This includes the salaries of any doctors, nurses and all other staff. This paltry sum might go someway towards explaining the near absence of beds, sheets, clothes, medical equipment and drugs within the government hospitals and clinics. Burma might have lots of hospitals and clinics, but there is nothing in most of them.
This paltry allocation of resources to a system that is nearly all empty buildings is from a ‘government’ that earns around $US100m each month in revenue from its gas sales to Thailand. Theoretically, the regime could increase the country’s aggregate expenditure on healthcare by nearly 50 percent, if it bothered to allocate to healthcare, only one month of the revenue its receives from gas sales. Mind you the revenue does not end up in the government’s budget. Instead, the money from gas sales disappears into the private bank accounts of the generals or is wasted on totalitarian extravagances such as the building of a new capital city, purchasing nuclear reactors (for medical research) and weaponry for an army whose enemy is its population.
Moreover, the people of Burma can not afford to use the large number of buildings that constitute the health infrastructure of Burma with the lowest per capita expenditure on healthcare, at $US4, of the ASEAN countries. The people of Laos have the second lowest per capita expenditure on healthcare, though it much higher than the people of Burma, at around $US22. Burma’s per capita expenditure compares even more poorly with Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines, whose per capita expenditure on healthcare are around $US30, $US34 and $US45, respectively.
TOTAL EXPENDITURE ON HEALTH
Per Capita Expenditure
Giving the regime money to build new hospitals and clinics, even if they were to be built is simply a waste of resources. There are already too many empty hospitals and clinics. More buildings are not needed. Rather the people of Burma need a health system that is properly financed and administered. Presently the country has neither, and simply throwing resources at the regime to erect more empty hospitals and clinics will only contribute to a mentality that sees infrastructure building as equivalent to the provision of healthcare.